Previewing the GOP debate

From Houston, Texas –

The Republican field is down to five as the candidates gather for a debate at the University of Houston, with just five days until GOP voters in eleven states cast votes on Super Tuesday.

What should we expect tonight?

DONALD TRUMP – In the last Republican debate in South Carolina, Trump was the aggressor, which was unusual for him, as he repeatedly attacked Ted Cruz, accusing him of being a liar. It worked for Trump. Tonight, one would think that Trump may be playing more defense, as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio look for ways to cut Trump down to size.

TED CRUZ – Cruz may have previewed his line of attack in a rally in Houston on Wednesday, as he labeled Trump, “P.T. Barnum” and once more argued that Trump is not a real conservative. Cruz certainly needs to win his home state next week, so an uninspired debate performance seems unlikely by the Texas Senator, who also has been tangling repeatedly with Marco Rubio.

MARCO RUBIO – Little by little, Rubio has been needling Trump in his stump appearances, as like Cruz, Rubio also needs to find a way to slow Trump’s three state winning streak. So far in the GOP debates, Rubio has barely clashed with Trump, as the Florida Republican also has passed on a few openings. One memorable one was when Trump had no idea what the ‘nuclear triad’ was – Rubio could have pounced, but did not. Rubio does not want a Tim Pawlenty moment.

JOHN KASICH – Early in the GOP debates, Kasich attacked Trump on a regular basis, but it didn’t do him any good. After that, the Ohio Governor instead went to a game plan that had him emphasize his record as Governor and as a member of Congress. While Kasich has tried to talk up his refusal to sling mud, he hasn’t been getting as much attention as Trump, Cruz and Rubio.

BEN CARSON – Carson is still standing, though he hasn’t really been involved in a memorable debate moment at recent GOP gatherings. Instead, Carson has often cracked jokes about how few questions he gets. With only five people on stage, Carson is not as likely to disappear for long periods of time, but it doesn’t seem like he’s going to join in attacks on Trump. “I don’t think fighting each other and calling each other names is going to solve any of our problems,” Carson told reporters.

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